x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

My Car: well-loved convertible Mercedes AMG has miles to go

Music-daft construction consultant Andy Hewitt says his 2006 SLK 55 AMG is a master of speed and cornering.

Despite his wife claiming the Mercedes SLK 55 AMG is 'too scary', Hewitt loves nothing more than driving about in it with the top down and the rock music blasting.
Despite his wife claiming the Mercedes SLK 55 AMG is 'too scary', Hewitt loves nothing more than driving about in it with the top down and the rock music blasting.

Andy Hewitt has been an expatriate since 1992, when he left Yorkshire, in the UK, with his family for stints in Nigeria, Bahrain and now the UAE. The 56-year-old freelance contracts and claims consultant runs his own agency - The Hewitt Consultancy - in the construction industry and has written books on construction claims. He also provides training courses on the subject and often finds himself on building sites, rendering his 2006 Mercedes SLK 55 AMG an impractical choice - but it's the car he's always wanted.

"Many of the projects I visit are only accessible by site roads. In fact, in order to visit one recent long-term project I had to use my wife's LR2 [Land Rover], as mine would have grounded-out on the bad access road," he says.

"Maybe it's a mid-life crisis," he laughs. "A 4x4 would be much more suitable, but I love cars and bikes and have always enjoyed convertibles. I've owned several drop tops in the past, including in the UK, where they only get about six days of sunshine a year. Maybe it's because I've also been a biker for 40 years and prefer to experience the environment instead of being enclosed in a steel and glass cage."

Hewitt arrived in Abu Dhabi in 2003 to undertake a two-month job on the construction of ADIA's HQ in the city and has lived in the UAE ever since - four years in Abu Dhabi and more than four in Dubai. "We've just moved to the Palm Jumeirah and I love driving onto the island in the evening with the hood down," he says. "As it's a 55 AMG, it does an impressive 0 to 100kph in 4.9 seconds, has a 5.4L V8 engine with 380hp, and in a car that weighs less than 1,500 kg, so it handles like a go-kart and Jeremy Clarkson tested one on Top Gear then went straight out and bought one for himself - need I say more?"

After spending some time looking for a good, used Mercedes SL, which is a car Hewitt has always coveted, his budget dictated it would need to be a few years old, but he could not find a low-mileage model with a maintained service history. "Why do people not keep their service records?" he asks. "I eventually found this AMG model with a good history and the original lady owner, whom I knew had kept it in great condition despite the 100,000km on the clock, so the deal was done," he explains.

A big music fan, Hewitt wasn't interested in any modifications, other than his iPod connection. "It already had everything I wanted or needed, so apart from setting it up so I can listen to Hendrix, Led Zeppelin and The Doors as I drive, I haven't done a thing to it," he adds.

And this rebellious rocker isn't afraid to put the Mercedes through its paces. "It's not particularly comfortable on long trips but, if it was, it wouldn't go around corners like it was on rails. It's noisy due to the wind from the convertible top, but the weather is gorgeous now and I enjoy feeling the wind in what's left of my hair. Also, when I put my foot down hard, it still gives me a huge grin as nothing can make it become unstuck. I've driven it up and down Jebel Hafeet and through the mountains from Hatta to Fujairah - it's simply amazing," he exclaims.

Hewitt's wife dislikes the SLK as she feels it is "too scary", which is odd considering she loves riding pillion on their motorcycle over long-distance road trips. "I've owned over 50 cars and several motorcycles - some of them were bangers, a few were classics; many were great vehicles and, others, complete lemons," he says. "My first car was a 1958 VW Beetle that I bought in the UK for the equivalent of under Dh400 when I was 17 after passing my driving test. That car sparked my love of German engineering because I've had several BMWs and Mercedes and one Porsche since then.

"Before owning the SLK, I drove a Jaguar XJ6, which was a superb luxury car, but it made me feel like an old company executive, which I suppose I am, but I just don't feel like one."

Hewitt is looking around the UAE for a well-maintained 1980s classic Mercedes SL, which he would like to take to Spain when he eventually retires - but if you have one, don't tell his wife.